Story at a glance

  • The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident in north Ukraine that killed dozens and left many injured and diseased.
  • Ukraine is now asking the United Nations to protect the site as a UNESCO World Heritage property.
  • The site remains largely abandoned, but the country is hoping to attract tourists.

Thirty-five years after a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded during a botched safety test, the city resembles a ghost town. Apart from a handful of locals, you’re not likely to see anyone except tourists, no doubt inspired by the HBO miniseries "Chernobyl" released in 2019. 

But the country of Ukraine has no intention of allowing the world’s worst nuclear disaster to be forgotten and is hoping to make it the next UNESCO World Heritage site. 

“We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first and important step towards having this great place as a unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian culture minister, told Reuters. “The importance of the Chernobyl zone lays far beyond Ukraine’s borders...It is not only about commemoration, but also history and people’s rights.”


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The country recently listed a huge military radar built near the city of Chernobyl on its national cultural and historic heritage list, Reuters reported, one of the nomination requirements for locations seeking UNESCO protection. There are currently 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which are under the protection of the United Nations and its members who have signed the World Heritage Convention and committed to preserving these sites.

More than 50 of these sites, however, are listed as "in danger," for a variety of reasons, ranging from climate change to armed conflict. The region of Chernobyl may have survived a nuclear disaster, but it is up to UNESCO to decide whether it will stand the test of time. 


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Published on Apr 26, 2021